~ December, 2008 ~


Note*spark is out! Now, for the hard part…

Well, Note*spark is finally out at the iTunes Store. You can read about it at http://notespark.com.

So we’re very excited, but after a moment of celebration, reality set in. Man, we are going to have to sell a lot of these to make it worth our while.

To make matters worse, Apple listed our release date as Dec 11, which is the day we submitted the app for the store, rather than Dec 17, which is the day they actually posted it. That means it never showed up as a “new app” on the store.

Maybe they’ll fix that. Who knows? But when it comes down to it, being listed as a “new app” is just a momentary bit of mild publicity. After that, you’re just one of 10,000 other apps on the store.

Note*spark is a very simple app, but we ended up putting a lot of effort into it, and we feel it’s very good and very useful. That having been said, there are a lot of apps out there, and lots of them are about notes. For people searching on the iTunes store for apps, how are they supposed to know that ours is good?

So we’re doing the obvious: writing to blogs, magazines, and anyone who will listen to see if they’ll write about us. Beyond that, I’m at a loss. I’m an engineering guy but but from my past life (leading the Dreamweaver team, etc.) I’ve thought a lot about marketing. But you know.. I just can’t get my head around how you “market” a $5 app (which is actually selling for $1.99 right now as an introductory price.. even worse!) The economics are just too different.

Anyway, we knew about all this going into it. Ours was not a unique product — it’s no Ocarina — but we thought we could tackle the problem well and do a good job. We did this because we thought it would be fun, not because we thought it would make us rich. And it has been fun. It’s fantastically exciting to put a tiny team together to publish a tiny product, and the good and the bad of it is that you get to do everything yourself — the coding, art, promotion, business planning… everything!

So we’re scratching our heads over this and giving it our best shot. If you have any ideas or insights into how to promote a product like this, I’d love to hear them. Or, if you’d like to help us get the word out yourself, we would love that. Post about it, tell your friends, review it on the iTunes Store.

In the meantime, we’re also planning some Note*spark updates as well as thinking about other product ideas. Stay tuned…

(cross-posted from Blog*spark)


How do you take screenshots when color management is on?

Speaking of screenshots, I learned something about OS X color management over the summer when I was working on a web coding editor in my spare time.

The editor is basically a tricked out code editor for web programmers. It’s geared toward PHP/Ruby guys, and I tried to keep the interface as minimal as possible. Most of the value of the product is in language intelligence, and so most of the features are either done through fancy code hints or heads up displays.

Of course, because this is for web stuff, there are features for HTML and CSS. The way you pick colors is, essentially, that the mac color picker is the “code hint” that shows up when your cursor is inside of a color value. Meanwhile, the color you pick gets used in the code coloring, so you can see the colors in your CSS file just by reading the text.

It actually makes more sense when you see it live. The text and color updates in real time as you move the sliders.

Well, anyway, I kept battling this bug where the color displayed in the editor did not exactly match the color chosen in the color picker. Well, it turns out that when color management is on, there is basically no way to get this 100% right. Either you’re inconsistent with one thing or you’re inconsistent with another.

I kept trying different combinations of converting between so called “device color” and the generic color space, until I realized something.

Even the Apple OS doesn’t deal with it consistently. ARRGH!

Look at this screenshot of the color picker next to an HTML background of the same color, rendered in Safari.
Inconsistent colors

The browser renders #00ff00 as R:0, G:255, B:0. On my monitor, the color picker renders #00ff00 as R:137, G:250, B:0

What is going on?

This is all a byproduct of color management, which all makes sense once you untangle everything, but boy, is it confusing.

I had never thought much about color management before, but I guess I imagined it something like this:

1) Apps draw into windows
2) OS X composites together the entire screen
3) Color management is applied globally at the very end, either by double buffering the entire screen buffer, or perhaps through hardware magic.

Instead, it happens like this:

1) Apps draw into windows. Each app decides whether it’s color managed or not.
2) When apps draw a specific color (such as #00ff00), it may end up with different pixel values after color management.
3) These bitmaps are then composited by OSX, and sent to the screen.

I’m sure there are lots of other complexities (e.g., the color spaces embeded inside of images. Ack! I just use sRGB and hope for the best!).

So now what? Who cares? And isn’t this post about screenshots?

Well, for starters, as far as I can tell, there is no way to take a screenshot of an OS X window without having color management affect the pixel values of the UI.

Let’s say I want to take a screenshot of a finder window to post to the web. If I take the screenshot on my monitor, it will look one way. If I take the screenshot on another monitor, it will be a different color. ARGH!

Now, as it turns out, I turned on color management in Firefox (because I don’t want photographs to look oversaturated on my wide gamut monitor) but the price of that you can get into some weird territory. For example, as I look at the screenshot I took above of those OS X windows from within Firefox, so the color management transforms are being applied AGAIN even though the screenshot has already had them applied, leading to weird colors

ACK! So.. does anyone know the “right” way to take screenshots under color management?


Note*spark screenshots

I posted some Note*spark screenshots as well as a mockup of an earlier design over at Blog*spark.


And in other late adopter news…

I’ve finally decided to give twitter a try. I actually signed up a while ago just to check out their UI (no intention of using it) but every few months weeks, someone starts following my twitter feed even though there are no tweets whatsoever!

*sigh* So I’m going to give it a shot. My handle is skuwamoto. I plan on using it, but I don’t plan on saying anything interesting.


Things we learned while running a small beta

FYI – We did a small — and very valuable — beta program around our Note*spark iPhone app. We had never done a “roll your own” beta program before, and I posted some of what we learned along the way at the metaspark blog.